Thursday, March 12, 2015

3/12 Toxic trains, Pierce shore, Growlers, starfish deaths, gray whales, Duwamish, Skagit wells, China coal, Witty's Lagoon

Fog over Drumbeg (PHOTO: Laurie MacBride)
“Adrift” in the Fog
Laurie MacBride in Eye on Environment writes: "Here on Gabriola Island, we’ve been deep in fog for much of the past week – weather which can dramatically shift my sense of solid ground. When all landmarks beyond those immediately in front of me disappear, along with the horizon, it can feel like being aboard a ship on the open sea…."

Toxic train cargo poses risk in White Rock and Crescent Beach
Rail cars carrying a toxic brew of dangerous goods are quietly rattling through the popular seaside communities of White Rock and Crescent Beach, posing the risk of a major disaster in the event of an accident or explosion. A Vancouver Sun review of codes placed on just a sample of those rail cars reveals dangerous goods such as chlorine, methanol, caustic soda/sodium hydroxide, liquid hydrocarbons, argon/refrigerated liquid, sodium chlorate, ethanol and gasoline mixture, styrene monomer, and petroleum crude oil. Railways are dead set against such information being made available to the public, arguing there are concerns over security and customer privacy. But citizens living alongside railways say the argument is bankrupt given that the codes clearly reveal what’s inside — if you know what to look for. Larry Pynn reports. (Vancouver Sun)

Pierce County shoreline plan approved after seven-year marathon
It took more than seven years, a rejection from the state Department of Ecology and countless public meetings, but the Pierce County Council this week finally approved a major update to a comprehensive document meant to protect more than 1,000 miles of waterfront and associated animal habitat. The Council’s 5 to 2 approval on Tuesday marked the first major overhaul of the Pierce County Shoreline Master Program since it was created in 1974. It governs everything from docks to marinas, from retaining walls to home construction, on saltwater and freshwater shores ranging from the Nisqually Reach to the White River Basin. Brynn Grimley reports. (News Tribune of Tacoma)

Growlers go 'gear-up' to reduce noise
A little relief from the thunder of Navy jets may rest in the landing gear. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is directing its Growler pilots to keep their landing gear up until they are over water as they fly routes over Lopez Island to lessen the impacts of jet noise, according to U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen. Officials of NAS Whidbey Island recently performed informal sound tests in areas on Lopez Island. One of the tests involved flying two jets overhead, one with landing gear up and one with landing gear down. Officials discovered a significant noise difference between the two jets. (San Juan Journal)

Massive starfish deaths prompt calls for emergency help
With millions of starfish dying all along the West Coast, Washington state Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives say it’s time for Congress to intervene and find out why. The outbreak, first noticed in the state by rangers in Olympic National Park in June 2013, has hit 20 species of starfish, also known as sea stars. After getting lesions on their bodies, the sea stars begin curling up and soon lose their legs, shriveling up and disintegrating into mush. Researchers fear the epidemic may be the result of a virus caused by climate change, with the disease showing its fastest progression in warmer ocean waters. Rob Hotakainen reports. (McClatchy)

Prime season for whale watching approaches as gray whales make their way north
Gray whales have begun their spring migration, which will take them more than 10,000 miles from the warm waters off Mexico to the Bering Sea. During their journey, the estimated 23,000 whales will cruise past the Washington coast. Some even take a break and spend time in the Strait of Juan de Fuca…. The best time to look for whale is from March-May as the gray whales make their way from their breeding grounds off Baja California to their summer feeding grounds in the North Pacific. Early mornings with calm ocean conditions offer the best chance for spotting whales from shore…. Some whales, however, will make a right turn into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. They often make it as far into the Salish Sea as Whidbey and Camano islands, feeding on ghost shrimp. Jeffrey P. Mayor reports. (News Tribune of Tacoma)

Duwamish River’s rowing club feel right at home on Superfund site
The Duwamish River, a Superfund site in South Seattle with ongoing pollution cleanup, is increasingly being used for recreation, including rowing. Daniel Beekman reports. (Seattle Times)

Skagit well water access bill gains Senate approval
The state Senate Wednesday approved a bill that could allow permit-exempt well access to hundreds of Skagit County landowners, despite opposition from several Washington native American tribes, including the Swinomish Tribe. Senate Bill SB 5407 passed on a 26-23 vote. The bill states that levels and flows may limit groundwater withdrawals from permit-exempt wells only if Ecology demonstrates that the particular groundwater withdrawal from the specific permit-exempt well at issue will cause impairment to levels and flows. Shannen Kuest reports. (Skagit Valley Herald)

Port: Enviros playing politics with suit against Shell Arctic fleet homeport
Environmentalists are using a court suit to pursue political goals and have no legal standing to block a lease that will base Shell’s Arctic oil drilling fleet at Terminal 5 on the Seattle waterfront, according to legal filings Wednesday by the Port of Seattle and Foss Maritime. “The subject matter of this motion is the subject of intense political campaigning by the Plaintiffs, but such politics have no place in this courtroom,” the Port said in a legal filing with King County Superior Court. Joel Connelly reports. (SeattlePI.Com)

China’s push to cut coal use could be bad news for proposed Cherry Point terminal
China is the world’s largest energy user, with an economy heavily dependent on cheap, coal-generated power. Just three years ago, Australia and the United States were shipping record amounts of coal overseas to feed China’s voracious appetite. Since then, China’s demand for coal has dropped, and it’s expected drop further, based on announcements of the last week in Beijing. Premier Li Keqiang said China wanted to reduce energy intensity — the amount of energy used per unit of gross domestic product — by 3.1 percent this yer. That translates to an annual reduction in coal usage of 176 million tons. Stuart Leavenworth reports. (McClatchy)

Stairs to Witty’s Lagoon beach get temporary reprieve
The stairs to the beach at Witty’s Lagoon have won a temporary reprieve. Capital Regional District staff had recommended the stairs off Witty Beach Road be removed at a cost of about $10,000 after engineering reports said the slope on which they are built is unstable. The engineering reports say stabilizing the slope and rebuilding the stairs would cost between $700,000 and $1.3 million. The slope, they say, has a history of failure due to natural erosion and is only marginally stable. They provided three options: rip-rap the shoreline, provide tiered retaining walls or insert anchors into the slope. But at the suggestion of Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, CRD directors asked for an assessment of how other jurisdictions manage such risks, instead of ordering the stairs removed. Bill Cleverley reports. (Times Colonist)

Propane terminal rejected in Longview
Commissioners for the Port of Longview rejected plans to lease a 24-acre site for a proposed $300 million propane terminal. By a 3-0 vote, commissioners rejected leasing property to Haven Energy, reports The Daily News online. Wednesday's vote came after 90 minutes of testimony. Commissioners expressed concern that the site rather than the nature of the project wouldn't work. It is not clear if the vote ends the project. Wendy Culverwell reports. (Portland Business Journal)

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